Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Last Minute Appetizer

Here's a very easy last minute appetizer that would be great for New Year's Eve. I prefer to bake the cups but I have also spooned the hot cranberry sauce onto the brie and it melts the cheese a little when you don't have an oven available. It's a recipe I demonstrated on Showcase MN. My friend Sue Doeden took the photo on a recent visit and I am always impressed with her work. In addition she wrote about it on her blog http://www.areavoices/suedoeden/

Hope you have a safe and happy holiday. We're waiting to see how much snow is coming and when. It's definitely a factor in everyone's plans. Will we really get up to 20 inches? More later!

Cranberry Brie Bites

During the holiday season, I make the sauce and keep it in the refrigerator. I like serving it with poultry or ham or having on hand for easy an appetizer. I also keep a box of the shells in my freezer and have Brie in the refrigerator for a last minute appetizer.

Makes 30 bites

1 pkg. (12 ounces) fresh or frozen cranberries
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup orange marmalade
1 cinnamon stick
3 cloves
8 ounces Brie, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 pkg. ( 9 ounces), 30 mini fillo shells
30 pistachios, if desired

Combine the cranberries, sugar, wine, marmalade, cinnamon stick and cloves in a medium saucepan.

Bring mixture to a boil over medium high heat, stirring often. Reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes or until berries pop and the mixture thickens.

Cool to room temperature. Remove cinnamon stick and cloves.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place fillo cups on a baking sheet. Place a cube of Brie in each cup. Spoon about 1 teaspoon cranberry sauce into each cup.

Bake 5-7 minutes or until heated through and the Brie melts. Place a pistachio on each cup before serving.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Lat Minute Holiday Gifts from the Kitchen

By now cookie baking should be well under way, everywhere but here. I'm starting this weekend as it's been a very busy week. Tomorrow I'm teaching a baking class at the Kitchen Window in Minneapolis in their beautiful new space. We're going to have fun and definitely lots of treats!

If you need a food gift at the last minute, here's a very easy candy recipe. Candy and cookies are my favorite food gifts because one recipe always makes so much.

Chocolate Cherry Almond Clusters Makes 36

6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
6 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup toasted slivered almonds
1 cup chopped dried cherries
2 tablespoons almond liqueur
1 teaspoon vanilla
Fleur de sel or sea salt

Line 36 mini-muffin cups with paper liners or place waxed paper on a cookie sheet.

Melt chocolate with condensed milk over low heat, stirring occasionally. When it’s smooth stir in almonds and cherries. Cool slightly. Stir in liqueur and vanilla.

Drop chocolate by tablespoons into liners. Sprinkle with fleur de sel. Refrigerate until firm. Remove from pans and store in the refrigerator.

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

How to Store Cookies

It's important that you store cookies carefully after they are baked. Store crisp cookies loosely covered at room temperature. Soft and chewy cookies should be tightly covered so that they don't dry out.

Don't mix strong flavored cookies (like Ginger Snaps) with other cookies because the flavor will transfer.

When I frost cookies, I let them dry at room temperature before placing them in cookie tins. Place waxed paper between the layers to prevent sticking.

To help control the chaos of the holiday season, bake your cookies ahead and freeze them. Cookies freeze well and thaw quickly at room temperature. Wrap them tightly and store them up to 3 months.

And don't forget- if you leave cookies for Santa, he'll need a glass of milk!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

How do you make cookies for Santa?

Advice from a friend's kindergarten class:

You need sugar and cookie powder and you bake them in the oven for I think about 12 minutes that's "top temperature".
Ah, I have made Christmas cookies before! You need to make Christmas peanuts too. They should be turquoise.
You need to make to make Christmas tree cookies. You put them in an oven that's really hot. Get some milk too for Santa!
You use powder and sugar and honey. Mix it all up and bake for I think about 5 minutes. The oven should be "80".
You need dough and sugar and some sprinkles and some frosting and you put them in the oven for probably 10-15 minutes.

Here's cookie baking tip # 4 and #5.

4. Use shiny aluminum cookie sheets with one or two raised ends. Insulated baking sheets prevent cookies from browning too much on the bottom but it's hard to judge doneness because the edges don't brown as well either. Cookies bake faster on dark sheets so watch carefully.

5. Bake one sheet at a time or rotate sheets halfway through baking. Cool you cookie sheets between batches. Test your oven temperature using an oven thermometer and adjust the temperature if needed.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Helpful Tips from Experts

Tuesday evening I attended the Les Dames d'Escoffier holiday party. Everyone was asked to share a special memory or helpful tip. I felt like I should be taking notes because there was a lot of great info shared.

Here are some of the things I remember:

Almost everything is helped with Tabasco or a little grated nutmeg. Use cayenne pepper if you don't want to add the vinegar that's in Tabasco.

Himalayan salt blocks add a unique taste to cooked foods.

Wrap celery in aluminum foil to preserve freshness (I'm going to try this for sure.)

Store fresh herbs with the stems in water and cover loosely with plastic to keep fresh longer.

The new whisks that contain straight wires with balls on the ends are fabulous.

And here's today's baking tip.

4. Many professionals prefer bleached all-purpose flour for cookies because they think it makes cookies are more tender. Some recipes that contain cornstarch or cake flour produce very delicate cookies. Whole wheat flour adds a certain nutty flavor but also makes cookies a little drier so substitute it for small amounts of all-purpose flour.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Holiday Baking Tips No. 2 and 3

2. Always use butter for the best flavor in your holiday baking. If you prefer to use margarine make sure to select products with 70-80% fat. Do not use reduced-fat spreads for cookies as they will spread too much and tend to stick to the cookie sheet. Butter makes cookie dough easier to roll out after refrigerating because it becomes firm when chilled so I always recommend using it for cut-out cookies.

3. When butter is too soft, cookies will spread too much. Soften butter by allowing it to sit at room temperature about 30-45 minutes before needed. I often soften it in the microwave using DEFROST and microwaving in 10-15 second increments. Go slowly the first few times so that butter doesn't melt. Once melted, use the butter for vegetables or other foods but not for baking.

Check back for more tips later this week!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Holiday Baking Tips

The holiday baking season has begun. Between now and December 25 I'll be posting helpful tips for successful baking.

Tip 1: Follow your recipe closely the first time you prepare it- you can make changes next time. Always use high quality ingredients like pure vanilla extract, unsalted butter and real chocolate. Measure accurately using stacking measuring cups for dry ingredients and clear measuring cups for liquid.

Let me know what your favorite cookies are.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Buttery Croissants

Whenever I'm in Phoenix there's always a new restaurant to visit. Yesterday I went to P. Croissant in Tempe and bought a dozen croissants. But not just any croissants, I selected a unique assortment.

When I entered the store I expected to find bakery cases full of a variety of buttery crescents but the cases were empty! Fortunately there were croissants just coming out of the oven. I got two each of their most popular, Bavarian custard, almond and chocolate. The remaining six were assorted and we are still decoding to see what we have.

P. Croissant makes 21 kinds of filled croissants and places a code in frosting on top of each. The box has a sheet that shows the different flavors. So far we've tried cinnamon apple, raspberry, and cinnamon apple. All were delicious.

The croissants are very light and delicate with a buttery flavor that isn't overly rich. We'll go back but next time we'll preorder!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thanksgiving Help!

Here are some toll free numbers when you need last minute help!

Butterball Turkey Talk-Line 800-288-8372

Crisco Pie Hotline 877-367-7438

Fleischmann's Yeast Baker's Hotline 800- 777-4959

USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline 888-674-6854

And a new recipe for Thanksgiving Dinner:

Cornbread Stuffing with Dried Fruit

Serves 6 to 8

4 cups cubed (3/4 inch) cornbread
¼ cup butter
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped Granny Smith apple
½ cup chopped dried plums (prunes)
½ cup chopped dried apricots
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
½ tsp. coarse salt
¼ tsp. poultry seasoning
¾ cup chicken broth

Bake cornbread and cool to room temperature. Cut into cubes about ¾ inch. Let stand several hours to dry out.

Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9x9 inch baking dish.

Melt butter in a 10-inch skillet and add onion. Cook over medium high heat until tender, 4 to 5 minutes.

Combine cornbread, apple, prunes, apricots, thyme, salt and poultry seasoning in a large bowl. Add onions and toss to mix. Stir in chicken broth. Spoon into the prepared dish.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until browned and heated through.

There's a good recipe for Cornbread in Baking Basics and Beyond or you can buy a box of Jiffy Cornbread and bake it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Traditional or Updated Thanksgiving

Because we have had a sunny and warm November, Thanksgiving seems to be early. But I know it is just over a week away.

Our family dinner is always very traditional but this year I have some new ideas. For dessert I'm making a Pumpkin Praline Cheesecake from 125 Best Cheesecake Recipes by George Geary. Most of my family are Apple Pie fans and won't miss Pumpkin Pie. Later this week I'll post a recipe for Cornbread Stuffing with Dried Fruit that is one of my favorites.

Here is a recipe for Cranberry Chutney that I got recently from a friend.

Anne's Cranberry Chutney

Makes 2 cups

1 (12 oz.) jar mango chutney
1 (12 oz.) bag fresh cranberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup white wine

Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan an bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat the low and simmer 10 minutes, stirring once or twice. Cool to room temperature. Store in the refrigerator.

Freeze some cranberries while they are available fresh and you can make chutney or cranberry scones throughout the year.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Simple Seafood Choices

Much has been written about pollution in the oceans and contaminants such as PCB's and mercury in fish. But fish high in omega 3 fatty acids provide enormous health benefits so it's worth learning more.

I'm aware of charts available online from the Monterrey Bay Aquarium on how to buy sustainable fish but it's complicated and takes time to work through. Recently I've read two articles that simplify the process.

The October/November edition of Fine Cooking chooses 5 fish that are plentiful, sustainably caught and have low levels of contaminants. Their choices: Arctic char, black cod, striped bass, Pacific halibut and Atlantic mackerel.

Cooking Light recommends albacore tuna, catfish, Pacific cod, Pacific halibut, wild Alaskan salmon, striped bass and tilapia.

Only purchase fish that has been kept on ice and has no fishy odor and plan to serve it today or tomorrow. If you don't see the kind you're looking for ask at the fish counter for their suggestions.

I serve a lot of shrimp and look for wild American shrimp or farmed shrimp for the U.S.

By selecting sustainable fish and eating it at least once a week, it's a win, win. It's good for the environment and good for your health.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Cranberry Season is Here

As soon as I see fresh cranberries in the fall, I can’t wait to start baking. Because they are easy to freeze, you can bake with them year round but they always seem a herald of autumn. I always buy several bags to freeze so I have cranberries when they are no longer available fresh. I also make Cranberry Chutney to serve with poultry and pork.

Cranberry Walnut Bars

These cranberry jewels are easy to make because the crust is pressed into the pan. Don’t forget the Crème Fraiche.

Makes 15 squares or 24 bars

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup cold butter

2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup light corn syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 cups chopped fresh cranberries
1 cup chopped walnuts
Crème Fraiche

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. and place the oven rack in the center. Place a piece of aluminum foil across the bottom and up the long sides of a 13x9 inch baking pan. Lightly spray foil with nonstick cooking spray.

Combine the flour, powdered and salt in a large bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender until coarse crumbs form and butter is coated with flour. Press into the bottom and slightly up the sides of the prepared pan. Bake 14 to 16 minutes or until the crust is slightly browned.

Combine the brown sugar and 1/4 cup flour in a medium bowl. Add corn syrup, eggs and vanilla and whisk until smooth. Stir in the butter, cranberries and walnuts. Pour into the browned crust. Gently even out the surface to distribute the cranberries and walnuts.

Bake 38 to 45 minutes or until a knife comes out clean in the center. It will be wet. Center will no longer jiggle when the pan is shaken. Cool to room temperature on a wire cooling rack. Carefully loosen the bars from the short end of the pan. Gently lift bars from the pan using the foil. Cut into squares or bars. Serve with crème fraiche. Be sure there is no foil on the bars.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

After Halloween Pumpkin Soup

Witches and goblins are gone, at least for another year. As the days turn colder, a warm bowl of soup is always welcome. If you want to use fresh pumpkin instead of canned, be sure to start with a sugar or pie pumpkin, not jack-o-lantern pumpkin! I developed this soup to use up the rest of a can of pumpkin after I used 1/2 cup for Pumpkin Custards. You can also use 1 1/2 to 2 cups of pureed butternut squash. In addition to topping a serving with yogurt, I like the crunch added with sunflower nuts or popcorn.

Pumpkin Soup

Besides being a favorite for pie, pumpkin is loaded with antioxidants and fiber and a healthy addition to any diet. If you have more pumpkin just add it to the soup. When I have leftover cooked wild rice or brown rice, I add it too.

Makes 4 servings

2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin or 1 (15 ounce) can
2 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
4 tablespoons low-fat yogurt

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat and the onion. Cook until the onion is tender about 5 minutes, stirring often. Stir in the broth, pumpkin, brown sugar and ginger. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring often. Reduce the heat to low and simmer 15 to 20 minutes to blend the flavors.

Garnish each serving with 1 tablespoon yogurt.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Meatless Monday

I realize that today isn't Monday, but recently I've embraced the concept of meatless Monday or serving one meatless meal a week. In addition to being healthy, it's also good for the environment. This week I served Spicy Red Lentils and Brown Rice garnished with cilantro and yogurt. Lentils and dried beans are high in protein and a good source of Vitamins A and B, iron and phosphorus and brown rice is a whole grain.

I purchased red lentils in bulk at a wholesale Italian market in Chicago on a recent trip. Red lentils are sometimes called Egyptian lentils and keep well for as long as a year. Easily cooked in less than 30 minutes, they form a puree.

To cook the rice I used my rice cooker. This is an appliance I haven't used much because the excess starch needs to be rinsed away. I've always felt this would also wash away the vitamins added to enrich the rice. With brown rice there is no need to rinse away excess starch because of the bran coating. My rice was perfectly steamed to be serve with the spicy lentils and I cooked enough for a second meal.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Showcase Minnesota

Today I appeared on Showcase Minnesota on KARE. Here is the link.

I was interviewed by Rob Hudson who makes it easy for me. In addition to Cranberry Walnut Tarts and Chocolate Zucchini Bread, I also baked Banana Walnut Bars. As soon as the show is finished everyone heads to the studio to try the foods. In December I'll be preparing Foods to Take to Friends.

Here's the Banana Bar recipe. The frosting tastes like Brown Sugar Fudge.

Banana Bars with Brown Sugar Frosting

My husband eats a banana every day, but sometimes we have too many ripe ones. Needless to say, I bake a lot of banana bars and banana bread! When the bananas are very ripe, I don’t bother to mash them but simply cut them into chunks, add them to the batter, and let the mixer do its job.

Makes 36 bars

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (2 medium)
1 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup whipping cream or milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts

Heat oven to 350°F with oven rack in middle. Grease and flour a 15 x 10 x 1-inch jellyroll pan.
Mix flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
Beat butter and sugar in bowl of a heavy-duty mixer on Medium speed until creamy, scraping down sides of bowl once or twice. Add sour cream, vanilla, and eggs and mix well. Add bananas and beat until mashed. Add flour mixture, and beat on Low just until flour disappears. Stir in walnuts.
Pour batter into prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake 22 to 26 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. The cake should spring back when touched lightly with a finger. Cool completely on wire cooling rack before frosting.

Heat brown sugar, butter, and cream in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it comes to a boil. Continue stirring and boil 30 seconds. Remove from heat and add powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat until smooth.
Spread frosting on bars immediately as frosting sets up quickly. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts. Cut into bars.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

There are certain times of year when Minnesota has weather very different from the rest of the country. For instance, now we have already had our first snowfall (small and melted already!) and other places people are still harvesting from their vegetable gardens. For all the others, here's a recipe for Chocolate Zucchini Bread. Of course, you don't have to grow zucchini, you can buy it too!

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Zucchini is so easy to grow that every gardener has lots more than they can use. Baking zucchini bread is a great way to use extra quantities, and adding chocolate improves the flavor for non-zucchini enthusiasts. I shred the squash in my food processor, but it can be grated by hand.

MAKES 2 LOAVES (12 to 16 slices)

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs, beaten
2 cups grated zucchini (2 medium zucchini)
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350°F with oven rack in middle. Grease with shortening and flour the bottom and part-way up sides of two 9 x 5-inch loaf pans.
Combine flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in center of the flour by pushing ingredients out toward sides of bowl.
Combine sugar, oil, chocolate, vanilla, and eggs in a large bowl and whisk until smooth.
Pour chocolate mixture into flour mixture, and stir only until flour is evenly moistened even though batter is not smooth. Stir in zucchini and chocolate chips. Divide batter between the two prepared pans, and smooth the tops.
Bake 36 to 42 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out dry. The edges of the bread may be pulling away from pan sides.
Cool on wire cooling rack 10 minutes. Run a spatula around sides of pans to loosen bread. Place rack over the bread and invert so bread falls onto the rack. Remove pan and turn top side up. The bread must cool before it can be sliced, and it slices better the second day.

BAKER’S NOTE: When grating the zucchini by hand, absorb extra moisture by placing the shredded squash between paper towels.
SECRET TO SUCCESS: If the level of the batter isn’t the same in both pans, one of the pans will bake quicker than the other. Take a quick peek after 30 minutes to check the doneness.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Punch Pizza: Best in America?

Recently I read an article about pizza in the NWA magazine when I was flying back from upstate New York. Punch Pizza in the Twin Cities was listed as the best and Pizza Bianco in Phoenix as runner-up, neither of which we've tried. We decided to try our own experiment and Saturday night we dined at Punch Pizza.

As you enter the restaurant you are facing the 800 degrees F. wood-burning oven that cooks pizza in 90 seconds. Aside from its function, the oven is beehive shaped and covered in one inch mosaic tiles and rises from the floor to the ceiling. After you place your order, you get a number and find a table. The pizzas are cooked so fast you barely have time to sit before warm pizza is whisked to your table.

We had a basic Pizza Margarita and Pizza Siciliana and both were outstanding. My favorite part was the crust, which was thin but chewy. I don't usually like thin crust because it's too often cracker-thin. Siciliana Pizza is topped with prosciutto, artichoke, picholine olive and fresh basil.

The Mt. Vesuvio tomatoes were juicy and bursting with sweet concentrated tomato flavor. Traditionally these tomatoes are picked when they are ripe and stored until winter to deepen their flavor but Punch has developed their own process.

Next trip to Phoenix we're heading to Pizza Bianco. We tried once before but the restaurant was closed because the owner/chef was out of town. We've been told to expect to wait a while and that's OK as long as it's not 100 degrees F. out!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Bon Appetit

One of the highlights of my recent trip to Washington, D.C. was a visit to Julia Child's kitchen at the Smithsonian. After a 4 star lunch at Kinkead's, my friend and I took the metro to the History Museum. With the opening of the movie "Julie and Julia" this exhibit has become extremely popular.

The Tuesday afternoon we were there it was busy, especially with visitors standing around watching tv for clips from Julia's PBS shows. I was nostalgic viewing episodes of The French Chef which is where I learned a lot of cooking. My food degree taught me a lot of the chemical processes and why certain techniques make a difference but didn't teach me a lot about getting a dinner on the table, and hot besides!

I overheard someone talking about their old copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking and wondering if it was a first copy (1961). When I got home I went to my tattered and spattered copy thinking it might be valuable. I got mine in 1971 and it was the 18th edition! Wow!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Time for Baking and Apples

It's a cold rainy day today in Minnesota. Just the kind of day when everyone thinks about baking. I don't know the "official date " for apple season but October 1 is definitely the right time. They've also created another new breed, SweeTango that will be available nationally next year. Watch for it!

There's a lot of talk about Honeycrisp apples that were developed at the University of Minnesota. They've become my favorite apple. For eating they are crisp, sweet-tart and juicy. For baking they keep their shape and aren't too juicy. I'm baking Apple Praline Coffee Cake from Baking Basics and Beyond today and filling the house with scents of apples and autumn.

Apple Praline Coffee Cake

When you prepare this coffee cake for a special occasion, arrange small pecan halves instead of chopped pecans on top to dress it up. Apples and brown sugar keep this cake moist for several days.


1 1/2 cups chopped peeled apples (about 2 medium)
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon, divided
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup milk

1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons whipping cream or milk
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Heat oven to 375°F with oven rack in middle. Spray a nonstick 10-cup Bundt pan with nonstick spray or thoroughly grease and flour.
Combine apples, sugar, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon in medium bowl. Combine flour, baking powder, remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and salt in another medium bowl.
Beat butter in bowl of a heavy-duty mixer on Medium speed until creamy, scraping down sides of bowl once or twice. Gradually add sugar and continue beating until light in color. Scrape down sides of bowl. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
Reduce mixer speed to Low and add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with two additions of milk. Scrape down bowl after each addition. Beat until smooth.
By hand, stir in the apple mixture. Spoon the batter into prepared pan, and spread evenly with a metal spatula.
Bake 45 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. The apples should be fork-tender. Cool on wire cooling rack 15 minutes and remove cake from pan (see Baker’s Notes below).

Heat brown sugar and 1/4 cup butter in small saucepan over medium heat, bringing mixture to a boil while stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low and cook until butter is absorbed, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and add whipping cream and powdered sugar. Beat until smooth.
Drizzle glaze over cake, allowing some to run down the sides. Sprinkle with pecans.

BAKER’S NOTES: Spray the Bundt pan generously with nonstick cooking spray or grease with shortening and coat with flour. Make sure the ridges are coated so the cake will come out completely.
Use a metal spatula to release the center and loosen the sides of the cake from the pan. With the cake side up, gently shake the pan to loosen the bottom, rotating as you shake. Carefully remove the cake from the pan by inverting it onto a cooling rack.
Because the glaze is cooked, it sets up quickly. As soon as it is smooth, drizzle it over the cake.
SECRETS TO SUCCESS: Use an electric knife or a serrated knife for easier slicing.
Place a piece of waxed paper or a cookie sheet under the cooling rack for easy clean-up after glazing.

From Baking Basics and Beyond, 2006, Surrey Books

Monday, September 28, 2009

Dining at the taverns of Colonial Williamsburg

A visit to Colonial Williamsburg is a leisurely trip into the past. Although we have been there several times before, I had forgotten the quaint streets and houses. We were really impressed with the interpreters in the craft shops. The milliner didn't just talk about hats but trims and customs. What was most surprising was what we learned about credit in the colony since everyone's gold was in England. Becauwe gold wasn't allowed to leave the country, a system developed for the exchange of cheques which could take as much as a year to be redeemed.

We enjoyed three meals in the recreated taverns of 18th century Virginia. Our first evening we dined at Mrs. Campbell's Tavern, George Washington's favorite. We both had an entree of assorted seafood including scallops and grilled shrimp. They were served with a side of spoon bread that was light and airy and cinnamony mashed sweet potatoes. I had never heard of spoon bread, a Southern specialty, before we tried it on a previous trip.

For lunch one day we stopped at The Kings Arms Tavern. We were shown to a table in a nook in the corner of the room and told that it was where Patrick Henry always sat so he could see all activity in the other rooms. I had Cream of Peanut Soup that was especially tasty. Very thick and creamy, this rich soup was garnished with chopped peanuts. I was surprised with the appearance of the Rice Pudding. Instead of the creamy Scandinavian style served in Minnesota, a large square of rice baked with egg to hold its shape was surrounded by a creamy creme anglaise. I don't think I like it as well as the creamier style but I did eat it all!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Famous for the Food

We were traveling in the D.C. area including parts of Virginia and Maryland for 6 days which added up to a lot of restaurant meals. We had several three star dinners but some of the best food we found was from two small casual family restaurants.

I'm talking Buddy's Crabs and Ribs (Annapolis, MD) and Pierce's Pitt Bar-B-Que in Williamsburg, VA.

We asked woman at the front desk when we checked into our hotel near the center of Annapolis where to go for crab. She said Buddy's had great crab so it was an easy decision. We strolled down brick sidewalks crowded with visitors heading to the pier as dusk approached and clmbed the steps to Buddy's.

After a brief wait we were shown to a table. We started our meal with Maryland She-crab soup, tomato based,with large chunks of crab. For old times sake, we had a large steamed crab and used crab mallets to crack the shell and pick out the crab. Large is the biggest size being caught in Chesapeake Bay today due to over-fishing. We used to buy a dozen crabs and make a meal, but this time it seemed like a lot of work althoug it is the best way to taste crab. We both had the same entree, a 5-ounce crab cake that had little filler and lots of briny flavor and sweetness. We ended the meal with a piece of Key Lime Pie that was gummy and disappointing.

Pierce's Pitt Bar-B-Que was a true experience of the South. "A must stop" says Bon Appetit and Southern Living readers made it a Reader Choice Award winner. The signature dish is smoked pulled pork with spicy barbecue sauce topped with cole slaw on a bun and is worthy of the fame. Sides included sweet potato sticks, onion rings, hush puppies, cornbread, baked beans, green beans, collards and mac n cheese- all traditional southern favorites.

After ordering we sat in a booth with a yellow formica covered table while a juke box played oldies. There was constantly a line to order and miraculously a free table always appeared just as food was served. I thought I had seen a comment somewhere about Carrot Cake and asked about it as we ordered. To my question "You make it here, right?" the response was "it's made by the sister of one of our workers". That's local! It was moist and sweet with a light creamy frosting andstill makes my mouth water to think about it.

Monday, September 14, 2009

It's All About the Food!

This week I will be in Washington, Virginia and Maryland. I'm really excited that on Tuesday in D.C. I will be eating in two Three-star restaurants, 1789 and Kinkeads. Kinkeads is famous for seafood and I'm planning to have something with crab.(Kinkead's was excellent but no crab!)

Wednesday we drove down to Colonial Williamsburg stopping at a vineyard for lunch and tasting. Our evening meal was at Christiana Campbell's' Tavern and we were welcomed by Mrs. Campbell and there was entertainment by period interpreters. I also have a dinner reservation for Friday at The Fat Canary, another three star restaurant.

Thursday night we had dinner at Pierce's Pitt Barbecue. I will write in detail later because it was everything a BBQ joint in the South should be!

In between I know we'll be searching for more crab. When we lived in Maryland and my husband worked in D.C. our favorite dinner was cracking into a dozen steamed crabs on a table covered with newspaper. We even purchased our own crab mallets for this event. I still have the mallets 30 years later but unfortunately, haven't had a chance to use them in Minnesota! We've not had much crab, maybe tomorrow.

Saturday night we will be in Annapolis, one of our favorite colonial towns, and we're planning to eat on the docks.

Bountiful Baskets

My daughter-in-law called yesterday because she had a question about freezing Plum Crunch (recipe below). She has joined "Bountiful Baskets" in Phoenix, AZ. Bountiful Baskets is a food co-op supporting local farmers and provides fresh produce a low prices. Here's a list of the foods from a recent pick-up: cantaloupe, romaine, broccoli, Brussels' sprouts, cherry tomatoes, peaches, apples, plums, cucumber, bananas, grapes, mange, kiwi, and lime.

Each week you sign up online and then pick-up on Saturday morning. In addition to the basics you can choose organic or not and special packs such as tropical (pineapple, mango, lime and coconut), Italian (garlic, onions, tomatoes and basil) and others.

On Saturday she got lots of plums and she said "a hundred apples". I'm not sure that was literal but she had already frozen two apple pies and was starting on the plums. Her question was whether she should freeze the crunch before or after baking. My advice was to bake it and then freeze. If you try t his, heat it in a 350 degrees F. oven before serving.

Crispy Oatmeal Plum Crunch

Summer and early fall are the best time to find plums in the supermarket or at the farmers’ market. I like that special spark of tartness from the skin, followed with the sweet, juicy taste of the fruit. Plums are becoming more readily available year round due to imports from South America. I like to serve this dessert with crème fraiche.


1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
6 cups sliced plums (about 2 pounds)
1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 cup all- purpose flour
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup cold butter, cut-up

Heat oven to 375°F with oven rack in middle. Spray bottom of 11 x 7-inch baking dish or 2-quart casserole with nonstick cooking spray.
Mix granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, cinnamon, and lemon peel in large bowl. Add plums and lemon juice and stir until fruit is well coated. Spoon fruit into baking dish.

Mix flour, oats, and brown sugar in small bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some pea-sized pieces. Crumble over the fruit.
Bake 35 to 45 minutes or until juices are bubbling all over and topping is golden brown. Cool slightly before serving—the sweet fruit syrup makes it very hot. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store any remaining in refrigerator.

BAKER’S NOTE: Ripe plums yield to a little pressure around the stem end. I often ripen plums at room temperature for a few days after I purchase them.
SECRETS TO SUCCESS: Grate the lemon peel before cutting the lemon and squeezing it for juice.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Peach Season is Ending

Recently Jeffrey Steingarten said on Iron Chef that he "had never had anything made with peaches, that was as good as a perfect peach". Unfortunately it's hard to find a perfect peach, but I know what he means.

In Minnesota the best peaches come from Colorado as our climate prohibits most fruits from growing here. For many years, I didn't buy fresh peaches at all because they never ripened without being mushy.

The best way to judge a fresh peach is to smell it. Peaches that don't have a peachy aroma never become sweet, juicy and tender. When peaches are really hard, place them in a brown paper bag and let then ripen at room temperature for a few days. They should yield slightly to gently pressure.

On a college trip out east, I introduced my daughters to fresh peaches. We bought them at a roadside stand directly from the farmer. They were slightly warm, surrounded with tender skin, perfectly sweet and juicy. After the first mouth-watering bite, we had juice running down our chins.

For dinner with friends recently, I served warm Peach Kuchen with ice cream. Here's the recipe.


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup butter, cut up
1 teaspoon cinnamon
6 large peaches, peeled, pitted, cut into thick slices
2 egg yolks
1 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon almond extract

Heat oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine the flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, salt and baking powder in food processor bowl; pulse to mix. Add butter and process until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press into a 13x9 inch baking pan. Bake 15 minutes.

Combine remaining sugar and cinnamon. Arrange peach slices over crust. Sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar mixture. Bake 15 minutes.

Combine cream, egg yolks and almond extract. Pour over peaches and continue baking until peaches are tender and juices are thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Friday, September 4, 2009

It's Never Too Hot to Eat!

Last week I visited my son and his family in Phoenix where it was over 105 degrees every day we were there. It was not, however, too hot to eat!

My daughter-in-law, 3 year old grandson and I had dinner out when the older "boys" went to the Cardinals game. In the hot desert heat, spicy Thai food sounded appealing so my daughter-in-law suggested a nearby restaurant, Latitude 8, a Thai grill in downtown Chandler. We started with spring rolls wrapped in rice paper and filled with rice, tofu and vegies with a mildly spicy dipping sauce.

While waiting for our entrees my grandson amused us by pointing out all the different vehicles passing outside our window, and there were lots!

For an entree I had Pad Thai, my favorite. It had both shrimp and chicken and the grilled shrimp was briny and succulent. The photo shows how beautifully it was presented. My daughter-in-law had Yellow Curry Chicken and Rice.

For dessert we had Mango Sticky Rice which I had never eaten. The rice was cooked in coconut milk and sugar and served with thin slices of ripe mango.

One day for lunch we returned to Joe's Farm Grill that has been featured on The Food Network. I had a grilled ahi tuna sandwich with a wasabi mayonnaise on a buttered and toasted bun with some Asian slaw. The food is always great but what we really go back for are the sweet potato fries. Should I feel virtuous for eating such a healthy food?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Make the Most of Dinner Out

Lately I've seem two articles related to making the most of a restaurant meal.

The first was the final column by Frank Bruni, restaurant critic of the New York Times, where he discusses how to choose from a menu. Bruni recommends not ordering any appetizers or entrees that are like dishes you've seen elsewhere because the chef's heart isn't in them. Don't order dishes "aggressively fanciful" because too much ego may be in them. And don't order anything with truffle oil!

Andrew Knowlton, BA foodist, answers two readers' questions in the September issue with surprising answers. If you are told a restaurant only has reservations 5:30 or 10:30 available, is it true? Yes, most likely because everyone wants to dine at 7:00 and a restaurant needs to be full all evening. He suggests asking to be on the waiting list and calling back the afternoon of the day you want to dine and ask about cancellations.

Should you be disappointed if a celebrity chef isn't cooking the night you are there? Actually, Andrew states that you are better off if the chef isn't in the house so that the chef de cuisine and sous chefs can do their best. They have something to prove. And they will be the next celebrity chefs!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Healthy Fats

Healthy fat is an important part of our diets. Polyunsaturated fats such as olive oil and canola oil are an essentail factor in reducing the incidence of heart disease.

Studies have shown that healthy fats, such as olive oil, also help us maintain a healthy weight and are important in weight loss diets. That's the reason Weightwatchers has 2 teaspoons olive oil as an important daily requirement.

Fats do provide twice the calories as carbs and proteins, so it's important not to consume too much fat and limit saturated fats found in dairy products and meats.

One of my favorite ways to use olive oil is in Sweet Potato Oven Fries.

Sweet Potato Oven Fries (serves 2)

1 sweet potato (about 12 ounces)peeled and cut into wedges
2 teaspoons olive oil
Coarse salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Lightly spray a baking sheet. Toss the sweet potatoes with the olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Place on baking sheet.

Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender. I usually bake until the potatoes begin to brown.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Not Your Everyday Potato Salad

Everyone in my family who has heard about my new recipe "Loaded Baked Potato Salad" has been anxious to try the recipe. Labor Day is still almost two weeks away lots of time for picnics and easy grilled dinners.

I serve this potato salad when we grill hamburgers. Potato salad completes a simple meal when juicy burgers on toasted buns are topped with lettuce and slice of tomato. I use a coarsely ground beef with 85% lean for a juicy burger.

Loaded Baked Potato Salad

The best toppings from loaded baked potatoes are combined in this salad. Because I don’t peel tender new potatoes this salad doesn't take much time. Roasting the potatoes is easier than boiling and adds "baked potato" flavor. Spread the roasted potatoes out on a cookie sheet to cool them rapidly.

Serves 4-6

2 lb. small red new potatoes, quartered
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup regular or light sour cream
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
4 slices crumbled bacon, 1 tablespoon reserved
2-4 chopped green onions, 1 tablespoon reserved

Heat the oven to 450 degrees F. Lightly spray a baking pan and add potatoes.
Drizzle with olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast potatoes for 20 minutes or until fork tender, stirring once during baking. Cool to room temperature.

Combine the sour cream, sugar, vinegar, remaining salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl. Add to the cooled potatoes and toss to mix. Stir in the cheese, bacon and green onions. Chill until serving.

Garnish with remaining bacon and green onions just before serving.

Copyright Pat Sinclair 2009

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Next Food Network Star

OK, I admit it, I did get sucked into The Next Food Network Star. There's not a lot on TV in the summer. As a food professional, it was fascinating to watch the contestants responses to the challenges they faced. Honestly, I couldn't have come up with some of their solutions, especially with larger quantities of food. And I could sympathize with some of their "less successful" results.

I'm not sure I would have picked the same winner as the judges, but I'm sure we have different criteria!

I just found a reference to the LA Times article about the runner-up getting his own show. It proves that if you are really good, even if you don't come in first, you can still be noticed.

Here's the link:

Friday, August 14, 2009

Salad Suppers

In the hot humid days of August we often have a salad for dinner. With homegrown tomatoes,drizzled with a little balsamic vinegar and a few shreds of basil, and an ear of fresh sweet corn, boiling the water for the sweet corn is what takes the longest.

Most of my summer salads start with chicken. Yesterday I watched a video on about poaching chicken breasts Here is the link:

I usually prefer to roast chicken breasts on the bone when I need to start with cooked chicken using Ina Garten's method.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. and place chicken on a baking pan. Rub with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is no longer pink in the middle. (A meat thermometer should read 160 degrees F.)Let rest until the chicken is cool enough to handle.

The easiet method of all, is to use the meat from a roasted chicken purchased at the supermarket!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Dinner at La Belle Vie

In any list of Twin Cities restaurants, La Belle Vie, is always near the top. Last night my husband and I enjoyed a leisurely meal focused on fresh flavors. We had the three course tasting menu (three course besides the 2 amuse bouche, and a plate of miniature cookies after dessert!).

After two delicate Gruyere Gougeres, a plate with a demitasse cup was placed in front of us. The cup contained a bottom layer of corn panna cotta, topped with shaved truffle and fois gras. It was very rich with delicate flavors and we almost licked the cup clean! We always have sweet corn this time of year, but never before as panna cotta.

A salad course came on a long rectangular plate decorated with basil puree. There were three bites of miniature tomatoes. A cherry tomato filled with burrata cheese, poached red and yellow grape tomatoes and perfect tiny squares of tomatoes served with compressed watermelon and a watermelon foam.

My main course was one diver scallop with a caramelized layer, topped with fried proscuitto and serve on a bed of sauteed spinach and pureed eggplant. The scallop was tender and moist and the salty proscuitto a delicious contrast.

Dessert was a White Chocolate Tart (white chocolate ganache on a tough pastry) and garnished with tiny poached balls of fresh peach. An almond tuile provided a sweet contrast and icy peach sorbet the final refreshing touch.

There wasn't even the tiniest bite of food left on every plate that was cleared from our table. Although the portions looked small, the total meal was just the right amount. We knew we had dined on extraordinary fare.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Not Just any Potato Salad

On Friday I appeared on Showcase Minnesota for KARE 11. The subject was variations on Potato Salad. Because this year Memorial Day was early and Labor Day is late, the summer season is actually longer. So there's time for more picnics!

I demonstrated Loaded Baked Potato Salad and also brought Sweet Potato Salad with Lime Vinaigrette and Country French Potato Salad with Green Beans.The recipes are on Showcase Minnesota's website.

Here is the link to the show.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Summer Potato Salad for Two

I'm going to be on Showcase Minnesota on Friday (August 7) and suggested potato salads that are different from the old standby. I've developed recipes for Sweet Potato Salad with Lime Vinaigrette, French Country Potato Salad with Green Beans and Loaded Baked Potato Salad.

Thinking about potato salad brought to mind a simple salad I use often in the summer because it is so easy to make and doesn't need to chill.

Easy German Potato Salad

Warm summer days call for lazy casual dinners. Start with hamburgers or brats cooked on the grill and add a couple of sides. I make this potato salad often because it doesn’t need to be chilled and can be served warm or at room temperature. I don’t peel the potatoes which eliminates a step and makes the potatoes more nutritious. The bacon flavor is important and I like the reduced sodium bacon bits but one or two slices of crumbled bacon work as well.

Makes 2 servings

4 medium red potatoes, (about 8 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon chopped green onion
1 tablespoon bacon bits

Scrub the potatoes and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices. Place the slices in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer potatoes 6-7 minutes or until fork tender. Drain well.

Combine the vinegar and sugar in the same pan and heat over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Return the potatoes to the pan and add the green onion and bacon. Toss to mix. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

SIDEBAR: Rice vinegar has a more rounded flavor than distilled vinegar. It contains a small amount of sugar and salt but you can use cider vinegar instead. If rice vinegar isn’t shelved with other vinegars look for it in the Asian foods section of the supermarket.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Do You Eat 5 a Day?

Summer is the easiest time to make sure you are getting the recommended 5 fruits and vegetables a day. This is the time of year when we have sweet corn for dinner almost everyday for 6 weeks. The local sweet corn has arrived at all the farmer's markets. Up til now the best sweet corn we had was from Indiana. I'm trying new ways to serve it this year not just buttered. Old Bay seasoning is an interesting new taste.

There are still some local berries available but the local strawberries are gone for another year. Their sweet strawberry flavor is so different from the Driscoll berries available year round it's hard to describe. Berries are high in fiber, Vitamin C and antioxidants. Store fresh berries in the refrigerator and rinse just before eating. They spoil quickly if you rinse them any sooner.

Locally grown melons are also sweet, juicy and refreshing now. To find a ripe melon examine the stem end. It should be smooth and show that the fruit was ripe and ready to fall of the vine. I always allow cantaloupe and muskmelons a day or two on the kitchen counter to ripen.

Fresh tomatoes are rich in vitamin C, antioxidants and lycopene. All they need is a little salt and a few basil leaves. I also like just a few drops of balsamic vinegar to bring out their sweetness. Never refrigerate fresh tomatoes for the best flavor.

Practice now to eat five fruits and vegetables a day as a part of a healthy diet. It's much more challenging in the winter!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Taste of the Twin Cities

Tuesday night was the Taste of the Twin Cities, an official Aquatennial event. It was held at the Depot in downtown Minneapolis, a restored train station. We've gone the last several years. Its a great way to spend an evening with friends and try some trendy food.

The Twin Cities Originals, a group of local restaurants, is the sponsor. There were 20 restaurants that served little bites of their food. Actually this year, there were 6 small sandwiches. We wondered if it was related to the economy- bread being relatively cheap.

Some of my favorites: New Orleans style BBQ shrimp with garlic toast; Poached shrimp on crispy wonton with red curry sauce; Beef en croute with mushroom mousse; mini salmon burgers with garlic aioli; Caribbean smoked duck potsticker with green papaya slaw.

I must admit I did enjoy the carrot cake with cream cheese frosting- nothing unique just yummy.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Make the Most of Summer Strawberries

On Saturday I did a demo at the Mill City Museum featuring fresh strawberries. It was Ice Cream and Cake day at the Mill City Farmers' Market and they were focused on summer berries. The Museum is a sponser of the farmers' market and was promoting the same theme. The fresh strawberry season is pretty much over in Minnesota but we still had some sweet berries for the demo.

Here's the recipe for the Strawberry Whipped Cream Frosting that was part of the demo and used to top Basic Butter Cake from Baking Basics and Beyond.

Strawberry Whipped Cream Frosting

3 cups finely chopped strawberries
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. framboise, optional
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 ½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups whipping cream

Mix the strawberries with the sugar and framboise in a medium bowl and let stand 15 minutes. Beat the cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla in large mixer bowl until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Gradually beat in the whipping cream on low. Beat with whisk attachment on high until soft peaks form. Beat in strawberries.

Spread the frosting on top and sides of cake. Chill at least 2 hours before serving. Store in the refrigerator.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Smokin' Babyback Ribs

For the first time the other day I smoked some ribs. It was an adventure and much easier that I expected. First I bought a "smoker box"- actually a small metal box to hold the soaked hickory wood chips. The smoker box goes directly on the heat source, a gas burner in this case.

I rubbed the ribs with a spicy rub and refrigerated them overnight. The ribs were place over indirect heat in my grill and cooked and smoked for 1 1/2 hours. I'd turn them once or twice the next time as a had some "burnt ends" but some people prefer their ribs that way.

The ribs had a delicious smoky flavor with a mild spiciness and we dipped them in our favorite barbecue sauce' Fiorella's Jack Stack Barbecue from Kansas City.

You can do this without a smoker box. Just place the soaked wood chips in a disposable baking loaf pan and poke several holes in the pan.

When the wood chips are burnt to ashes add some more wet chips. I'll do this again.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Cake and Berries

Here's the link to the Mill city Farmer's Market web site. On July 18 I am doing a baking demo at the Mill City Museum at 1, 2 and 3 p.m. as part of the Farmer's Market Celebration. At the market web site you can also check out what local organic produce is available this week.

I will be baking a basic yellow cake from scratch and frosting it with a heavenly rich and berry-full frosting. Actually I'll probably bake miniature cupcakes as they make perfect bite-size samples.

In addition I'll show how to make shortcake and top it with luscious summer berries. It's the peak of the berry season and we'll have strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. Everyone is always surprised with how easy it is to make a shortcake. Of course, we'll finish with a fluffy mound of whipped cream.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Tips for Summer Grilling

All of us pull out the grill and use it more often in the summer. Unfortunately the high heat from grilling can char or blacken meats forming carcinogens(cancer causing compounds). As the fat in meat melts and drips onto the coals, this also produces unhealthy compounds.

There are several ways to enjoy the ease and flavor impact of char-grilled foods while minimizing these dangers. Nutritionists suggest marinating meats and useing smaller cuts of meat that cook more quickly. Turn the meat often with tongs so that the surface doesn't become as hot. Don't pierce the meat with a fork because in addition to causing juices to run out, the dripping juices cause flare ups.

Nutritionists have found that marinades or meat rubs containing rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil and parsley contain antioxidants that help decrease the carcinogens.

Add fresh herbs, citrus and chiles to rubs, sauces and marinade for flavor. In this way you can also use less salt, another healthy benefit.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Food Safety and the 4th

With the 4th of July coming already next week it seems like a good time to review food safety. Poultry was the most common source of "food poisoning" in 2006 according to an article in the NY Times. It was followed by leafy vegetables and fruits and nuts.

Poultry most often causes illness relates to clostridium perfringens. One a food has been left out at room temperature the spores that form and lead to illness can survive cooking so food storage is critical.

Salmonella was the second leading source of food-related outbreaks (peanut butter, spinach and tomatoes).

Rinsing fresh fruits and vegetables will decrease their ability to cause illness, but if they become contaminated in the field there isn't much a consumer can do.

With this information two things are clear:

1. The FDA must reform and improve its' food safety programs to protect the public.

2. Anytime, but especially in the warm summer months, chill food thoroughly before packing and keep it cold (40 degrees F. or lower).

3. Keep hot foods hot, that is, over 140 degrees F.

And take advantage of summer, especially in Minnesota, it ends too quickly.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

"World famous Juicy Lucy"

Yesterday we went to the 5-8 Club in south Minneapolis and everyone had a "juicy lucy" burger. The original is 8 ounces of ground beef with a large chunk of American cheese in the center. The burger was grilled medium well with a little crunch on the out side but it was still juicy and the cheese oozed out when you took a bite.

The 5-8 Club started as a speakeasy during prohibition and is still going strong. There is some question as to whether this is the original "juicy lucy" or if Matt's which is further north on Cedar Av serves the original.

Next time, we're off to Matt's!

Monday, June 15, 2009

112 Eatery is Unique

Saturday night we celebrated our anniversary with dinner at 112 Eatery. It is in an historic building in the Minneapolis warehouse district, very small and very busy. The only reservation we could get was for 5 p.m. we had a comfy booth surrounded in dark wood with comfortable benches. We started with a bottle of Pacific Rim Riesling from Bonnie Doon winery. The wine list has many reasonably priced bottles of wine.

The menu had appetizers, sides, entrees and desserts. We started with an appetizer salad- romaine leaves with Roquefort dressing. The dressing was a vinaigrette which was a pleasant surprise and the salad was topped with crumbled blue cheese and toasted bread crumbs that added a satisfying crunch.

My entree was the seafood cutlets with leek relish. The cutlets were actually similar to a crab cake but consisted of shrimp, crabmeat and scallops. It was served with a curry aioli and topped with lightly sauteed leeks. The leeks looked pretty but had little flavor.

My husband had a country style pork rib with picante sauce (sold by the rib) and Chinese fried eggs. For sides we shared cauliflower fritters and pan fried gnocchi. I didn't like the gnocchi as its center was very soft.

At dessert we tried two there and brought one home! I enjoyed Nancy Silverton's Butterscoth Budino ( a very rich pudding topped with butterscotch sauce, whipped cream and sea salt). My husband gave pecan coconut cake a la mode rave reviews.

Some unique items on the menu- duck & radicchio salad, proscuitto, grapefruit and mint salad, lamb scottadito with goats milk yogurt, tagliatelle with fois gras meatballs, nori encrusted sirloin with ponzu.

A delicious and unique meal in a comfortable atmosphere with attentive wait staff!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Cranberry Orange Scones

These scones were a big hit at my lunch on Monday and several people asked for the recipe. I actually developed the recipe for the Mill City Museum to use with their 1-lb bags of flour. I like this recipe because it makes 16 scones. I freeze any extras and heat them in the microwave before serving. Don't skip the orange peel as it adds a lot of flavor.

Cranberry Orange Scones

Makes 16

1 lb. bag all-purpose flour (3 ¾ cups)
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
¾ cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup milk
½ cup honey
¼ cup orange juice
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
¾ cup dried cranberries

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Combine milk, honey and orange juice and stir into flour mixture. Stir with a fork until a soft dough forms. Add cranberries.

Place dough a well-floured surface and knead gently 8 to 10 times until the dough just holds together. Divide dough in half. Press each half into a 7-inch round about 1/2–inch thick. Cut each into 8 wedges. Place wedges on ungreased baking sheet.

Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Copyright 2007 Pat Sinclair, author of Baking Basics and Beyond

Monday, June 8, 2009

Slovenian Easter Brunch- A Little Late

When we were in Chicago last week we were treated to a traditional Slovenian Easter Brunch. Our friends had brought it from Cleveland as a treat for their sons. Every Easter the head of the family takes the food for Easter Brunch to be blessed on Holy Saturday. These customs come from centuries in the past.

The traditional foods include sausages, colorful hard cooked eggs, doughnuts called kruhki and potica, a ground nut filled bread. The kruhki are made from a yeast risen dough and fried. (They tasted like jelly doughnuts without the jelly!) Our friend learned how to make the special sausage from his grandfather many years ago. Horseradish is served traditionally but we enjoyed mustard instead.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Green City Market- Chicago

Last week we were on a road trip to Chicago and Indiana. It was a multi-cultural eating event (more later). On Saturday we went to the Green City Market in Lincoln Park, named one of the top organic markets in the US by Alice Waters. Their goal is to support "the highest quality sustainable agriculture".

It's asparagus time! Locally grown organic asparagus was heaped high on many farmers' tables. We purchased a bunch that had been picked on Friday. (Many of the farmers leave home in the middle of the night to be there for the 7 a.m. opening.) It was crisp and delicately flavored and certainly the freshest I have ever eaten.

Because it's is still early in the season the fresh produce was limited. We also saw tables of mushrooms, rhubarb and many herbs, green plants and fresh flowers. Poultry and pork farmers were also there along with several cheese makers from Wisconsin. We bought an unusual cheese that needs to be heated and samples were being grilled. It softens but doesn't melt.

Toim Laurell from Bin 36 restaurant was doing a demo but unfortunately we were too late to get recipes. While we watched he created a simple method for cooking cherries in port sous vide.

I have a fabulous photo of asparagus that I'll post tonight after I download it.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Watch Out for Sodium

I've just finished an article on sodium and the ways it has an impact on health. Consuming high amounts of sodium each day raises your risk for heart disease, strokes and hypertension.

In the summer we have hamburgers cooked on the grill and I always top mine with ketchup and mayonnaise. Both of these condiments contain significant sodium so I'm going to try other toppings. Instead of salt, sprinkle fresh herbs or lemon juice on cooked vegetables.

The recommended limit for adults is 2300 mg per day of sodium (sodium is one of the two components in salt).

One of the most effective ways to decrease sodium in your diet is to prepare more foods at home. Minimally processed foods are the most healthy. Fast food and restaurant food are high in sodium. Reading the nutrition labels on all foods will help you make changes.

Also limit bacon, ham and processed meats, canned vegetables, frozen dinners, canned and dry soups, sauce, salad dressings, snacks and seasoning mixes.

As you gradually reduce your salt consumption your tastes will adjust and you will no longer crave salt.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Turtle Bars for the Party

This weekend we are going to Chicago to visit my daughter and her fiance and meet her future in-laws. Kristin and John have invited a bunch of their friends to meet the four parents, so there will be lots of meeting and greeting!

I offered to bring some bars and decided to bake Turtle Bars from Baking Basics and Beyond. These gooey bars have milk chocolate chips, pecan halves and caramels. I discovered Kraft Caramel Bits at the supermarket and used an 11 ounce package instead of unwrapping 30 caramels. What a clever idea!

Here's the recipe.

Turtle Bars

Melt the caramels or caramel bits first and cool slightly. You can use caramel sauce, but it’s just not the same. To save time, buy graham cracker crumbs rather than crushing your own.


30 caramels, unwrapped (or 11-ounce package caramel bits)
1/4 cup milk
2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
2 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk chocolate chunks (6 ounces)
1 cup pecan halves

Heat oven to 350°F with oven rack in middle. Line bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, extending foil about 2 inches beyond long sides of pan. Spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray.
Melt caramels with milk in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring often, until smooth. Cool slightly.
Beat brown sugar, butter, vanilla, and egg in bowl of a heavy-duty mixer on Medium speed until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl once or twice. Add graham cracker crumbs, flour, and salt. Mix until crumbly on Low speed.
Remove 1 1/2 cups of mixture and set aside. Press remaining crumb mixture into bottom of prepared baking pan.
Sprinkle chocolate chunks and pecans evenly over crust. Pour melted caramels over top. Crumble the reserved graham cracker mixture unevenly over the caramel sauce, leaving some of the filling uncovered.
Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until caramel mixture is bubbling and edges of crust are beginning to brown. Cool completely on wire cooling rack. Remove in one piece from pan by loosening the ends with a metal spatula and lifting, using the aluminum foil. Cut into bars.

BAKER’S NOTE: The graham cracker mixture is very sticky and must be spread evenly, so I usually spray my fingers with nonstick cooking spray before pressing out the crust.
SECRETS TO SUCCESS: You can use semisweet, bittersweet, or milk chocolate chunks, but I prefer milk chocolate. Chop the pecan halves if they are large and the bars will be easier to cut.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

What are Essential Gadgets?

In her weekly newsletter The Splendid Table Lynne Rossetto Kasper gave suggestions for bridal shower and graduation gifts- things she considers essential. She had suggestions I hadn't thought about such as timers and oven thermometers. And I admit they are essential to success.

Here's my list for someone who is learning to cook and bake.

An oven thermometer, timer and instant read thermometer

A microplane grater, a citrus reamer, a vegetable peeler with a ceramic blade (It doesn't rust in the dishwasher)

Quality measuring cups and spoons (I have a set of magnetic measuring spoons that are so convenient. They are held together with magnets so they're easy to find, but you don't have to wash the whole set and they have flat bottoms so you can measure liquids ahead

Silicone spatulas and quality wire whisks, a pastry blender, a pastry cloth and wooden rolling pin.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Bits of Wisdom About Healthy Fish

There were lots of bits of wisdom last night at Edesia Cookbook Review with Kim Ode. Damon Holston of Coastal Seafood suggested deciding how you want to cook fish and then choosing the best fish for that method. Two fish that are currently popular are barramundi (a perch) and Artic char.

For kabobs on the grill try swordfish, tuna, marlin or cobia. After a short marinade grill the fish chunks and vegetables on separate skewers so each can be cooked to the proper doneness.

Don't forget about holdover cooking time. Bret Bannon, a local chef and teacher, suggested buying an extra piece of fish (for a dinner party) and using it to determine the proper cooking time. The best way to judge doneness is to lift a portion with a knife tip. Don't cook "until fish flakes with a fork" because at that point the fish is already overcooked.

Wild fish should be cooked through to kill parasites unless the fish has been frozen. High quality fish is fish that has been processed shortly after being caught and then stored in ice. Unless you catch it yourself, "fresh" fish is probably several days old.

Here's a simple way to grill any fish, especially salmon. Oil the grill and the fish and place the fish skin side down on the grill. Don't try to turn the fish as it will fall apart when cooked. When properly cooked, it releases from the grill.

Good quality fish requires little seasoning. Just a little salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Easy Side Dish for Summer

With summer just around the bend (I hope), we have started to use our gas grill often. The following recipe is very easy, very fast and goes with any grilled entree. Cous Cous is one of my favorite side dishes because it is so easy and has endless variations. I have recently started using whole wheat cous cous and can tell very little difference between regular cous cous and the whole wheat variety. After you try the basic recipe you can add raisins, chopped peanuts, chutney or chopped green onions if you like. I always add the peas because it's another way to add more vegetables to our diet and provides a punch of color.

Summer Cous Cous

Serves 2

1 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup whole wheat cous cous
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 tablespoon chopped parsley, if desired

Heat the chicken broth to boiling in a small saucepan. Stir in the cous cous, curry powder and salt. Cover and let stand about 5 minutes or until the broth is absorbed. Stir in the peas and parsley, fluffing the cous cous with a fork.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Look for organic foods

Lately I've been learning a lot about sustainable and organic foods. Generally, organically grown foods are more expensive. Since most of us need to make economic choices when purchasing food the following lists will help you make some choices.

Here is a list of foods that are recommended for organic.

Milk from organic dairies and USDA organic coffee (this also helps save rainforests)

Fruits- strawberries, peaches, nectarines, apples, cherries, grapes and other thin skinned fruits

Vegetables- red peppers, celery, kale, leafy greens, carrots (peeling helps if they are not organic), potatoes and tomatoes

Generally speaking fruits and vegetables with thick skins that are removed are the ones with the least pesticide residues.

Check out the farmer's markets which are just opening in Minnesota for locally grown organic produce.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with Tres Leches Cake

This is one of my favorite cakes- not just because it is dense and moist (from all 3 milks!) but because one 13x9 inch cake serves a lot of people. It can be made a day or two ahead and refrigerated. I usually spread it with plain whipped cream because it looks prettier that way and often add some strawberries. Everyone who tastes it wants the recipe and I always say "It's in Baking Basics and Beyond".

Here's The Recipe from Baking Basics and Beyond

Tres Leches Cake

This traditional Hispanic dessert is currently very popular in the United States. Tres Leches translates as “three milks,” and this cake is literally drenched in sweet milks—whipping cream, evaporated milk, and condensed milk. Whole milk is an extra!


2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

3/4 cup whipping cream
1 (15-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (5-ounce) can evaporated milk

Heat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Grease and flour a 13 x 9-inch baking pan.
Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl.
Beat butter until creamy in bowl of a heavy-duty mixer on Medium speed. Gradually add sugar, scraping down sides of bowl occasionally, and beat 2 minutes. Beat in egg yolks, scrape down sides of bowl, and add vanilla. Beat 2 minutes more until mixture is very light and creamy.
Reduce mixer speed to Low. Add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the whole milk in 2 additions. Scrape down sides of bowl after each addition. Beat until smooth, but no longer than 15 seconds.
Place egg whites and cream of tartar in bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the whisk. Beat on High speed until whites form soft peaks. (When you lift beaters, whites should form peaks that fall softly down.)
Add whites to batter with a folding motion. Bring a rubber spatula across the beaten whites in a motion parallel to the counter, slide the spatula down the back of the bowl, and pull it back in the other direction, lifting at the end. Rotate bowl as you fold. Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. The cake may not be browned. Place cake pan on wire cooling rack and pierce cake generously with a fork or skewer.

Combine whipping cream, condensed milk, and evaporated milk in medium bowl and mix well. Spoon generously over the cake. Continue to add more liquid as topping is absorbed. You may not use it all. This cake must be stored in the refrigerator.

BAKER’S NOTES: It is easier to separate the egg yolks from the whites when the eggs are chilled. Do this about 1/2 hour before starting the cake.
Condensed milk has lots of sugar added, and evaporated milk does not—read the labels carefully.
SECRETS TO SUCCESS: Be sure bowl for beating egg whites is free from fat so that the whites will whip well.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mohawk Valley's Riggiefest

When my daughter and son-in-law moved to Utica, NY I first heard about "riggies". This pasta dish is unique to the upstate New York area. Riggies are actually rigatoni with chunks of chicken and green peppers lightly covered with spicy marinara sauce. We tried it for the first time last weekend. It was very good and makes a great dish for a crowd. Rigatoni is one of my favorite pastas because it brings back memories of the next-door neighbors of my childhood.

Last weekend was also the 5th annual Riggiefest, a cook-off between restaurants, and lots of sampling. This year there was also a home cooking champion. All the proceeds from the community supported event benefit the YMCA of the Mohawk Valley.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Cheesecake and More

For my grandson's christening we served cheesecake from Manny's Cheesecake in Utica, New York. It was hard to choose between the different flavors. We finally settled on Amaretto with sliced almonds which means we had to pass up chocolate, chocolate chip and raspberry and could also have had fruit toppings. I was surprised that the cheesecakes had no crust and they came in 6 different sizes.

There were also fruit turnovers, cookies and tarts. I can't resist almond crescents made with almond paste. The photo is of a vanilla pustie which is a pastry with a custard center. The pastry was a combination of a sweet roll and pastry. They also came in chocolate and peanut better. The unusual texture with the creamy filling was a hit with me.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Fabulous Brunch

I'll be in upstate New York this weekend visiting my daughter and her family. On Sunday we're haveing a few friends over for Brunch. Here's a easy recipe from my friend Sheilah Kaufmann. Who doesn't like chocolate?

What combination could be better than chocolate and cherries! This is a quick, easy, and elegant dessert. From UPPER CRUSTS: Fabulous Ways To Use (Tired) Bread by Sheilah Kaufman

1 teaspoon butter
3 stale croissants
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup dried cherries
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup cream
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon Cassis (or vanilla)

Generously butter a 9x9-inch baking dish.
Cut croissants into 1/ 2-inch pieces (as best you can) and scatter cubes, chips and cherries into prepared baking dish.
In a large bowl whisk together sugar, cream, eggs, and Cassis until sugar dissolves.
Pour sugar/cream mixture through a sieve into prepared baking dish.
Gently push down cubes so they absorb the egg mixture. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes.*
Preheat oven to 350F.
Bake for 40 minutes or until center is puffy and golden. Serve hot.
Serves 6.
*If in a rush, skip chilling. Instead pour only half of egg mixture in, push down to absorb; wait five minutes before pouring on some more but not all, leaving tops of cubes just above liquid line.

UPPER CRUSTS: Fabulous Ways to Use Bread--cooking teacher, cookbook author, and food editor, and culinary lecturer, Sheilah Kaufman, features one of America’s favorite comfort foods as the main ingredient. Specializing for 40 years in taking the intimidation out of cooking and entertaining--this delightful new collection, published by Capital Books, offers easy-to-prepare recipes for simply delectable appetizers, salads, soups, vegetable and main dishes, desserts and more for elegant celebrations and warm family gatherings. “… with homey and surprising flavors like these, you may end up buying bread just to let it go stale," said Claudia Kousoulas, Appetite for Books.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Can you believe what you read on labels?

Today's edition of the Star Tribune has a feature "Label Fables" which is great topic. Recently my husband has been drinking Cherry 7-Up with antioxidants. I feel strongly that this is misleading information. Sharon Lehrman, a registered dietitian in St. Louis Park, provides a counterpoint.

Although Cherry 7-Up has a minuscule amount of antioxidants, it is also high in potentially damaging ingredients- such as aspartame. Twizzlers claim to have no fat- that's true- but they are high in sugar and artificial colors. Vitamin Water is "expensive sugar water with vitamins".

The healthiest foods are foods without labels- that is , fruits, vegetables, fish and other protein foods. Give it some thought before your look to processed foods for health claims!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Eating Out

Earlier this week I had dinner at Heidi's Restaurant in south Minneapolis. My friend and I each ordered an appetizer which we shared and they were fabulous. We had a carrot filled ravioli with basil and a colorful beet salad with endive and fennel and a beet reduction There was some soy sauce in the dressing which was a happy surprise. Both were beautifully arranged but the restaurant was too dark to take a good photo. We both ordered the night's special a grilled halibut served with a "haupia cake". We asked about the haupia cake and our served described it well but I found out I didn't like it. It was like a coconut custard breaded with panko crumbs and fried. The halibut was cooked perfectly. Now that halibut is back in season I order whenever I can.

Today I met a friend at The Baker's Wife, also in south Minneapolis. We sampled three items and found them interesting. A caramel cake was filled with a firm cream cheese filling and a little caramel sauce. I liked the Almond Tart the best- a cakelike filling with ground almonds was surrounded by a tender pastry. My friend said the Chocolate Filled Muffin was very good and loaded with chocolate flavor. The prices were really low and it was an old-fashioned bakery with charm.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Some Thoughts on Eating Healthy in Restauratns recently published the results of a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research that examined the effect of nutritional labeling on food choices in restaurants. When nutritional information was provided for items that contained a claim to "great taste" consumers didn't change their choice because they expected items that taste great to be higher in calories. Most of us don't realize how many calories are in food consumed in restaurants and would change our selections with the numbers in front of us. Start by reading the nutritional info available in fast food restaurants. Some burger contain an entire days worth of calories.

Here are some tips for making wise choices when eating out. Choose broiled or grilled entrees as opposed to sauteed, and ask for sauces to be omitted or served on the side. I always ask for salad dressing to be served on the side as most salads contain too much dressing for my taste. Ask to replace French fries with a vegetable or plain baked potato. Avoid emptying the bread basket and dip bread lightly in olive oil as opposed to butter. It helps if you don't arrive so hungry that you eat everything is sight.

Friday, April 10, 2009

What is Sustainability ?

Last week at IACP the topic of one of the keynote sessions was sustainability. Dan Barber, whose restaurant in New York city relies completely on organic foods produced by local farmers, stated that good natural systems are actually very simple. He spent most of his time talking about fois gras (a touchy subject these days) He traveled to Frane to spend time with a goose farmer who doesn't force feed his geese but rather treats them gently and feeds them differently to fatten their livers just before they are killed. He said that we tend to "take more, sell more and waste more" and the we need to look to nature for solutions.

Walter Robb, the CEO of Whole Foods, discussed Whole Foods approach to making "natural, organic" food available to all. One definition of sustainability is "to develop and fulfill the needs of the present without compromising the environment". Whole Foods are looking for simple, healthy, fresh, clean and local sources. Everything depends on the interaction of the customer, chef, seller and farmer.

I am in favor of using organic foods and local foods but don't think this is a way we can feed our population or the starving millions. In MN is it is impossible to rely completely on local foods because our growing season is short. We need to find creative solutions.

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Cooking Class with Anne Willan

When I was in Denver at IACP last week I took a class from Anne Willan, the founder of La Varenne Cooking School. Her class, French Country Cooking and the Centennial State, related to the IACP theme "Pioneering a Sustainable World". At the beginning of the class she talked about the effect of geography on local foods and culture. She stated "you should get a sense of place on the plate". Country cooking is all about living off the land.

The discovery of French regional cooking really began in the early 1900's when a foodie was sent out on the road and told to drive until he wore out his Michelin tires. Today chef's are still competing for those coveted Michelin stars.

For class she prepared Daube of Buffalo with Green and Black Olives, a one-dish meal related to a Provencal daube. Braised Chicken with Colorado Beer is her interpretation of a classic dish from northern France. We also enjoyed a taste of Vineyard Baked Beans, using dried kidney beans, and finished with a robust red wine. These are not American baked beans!

A bouquet garni was in all of the savory dishes. She uses bay leaf, fresh thyme and parsley, tied in cheesecloth. when I asked she said that bay, thyme and parsley are the standard but other possible additions are oregano and celery leaves.

We ended with a "Quick Tart Tatin". She prepared with pate sucre by hand on the counter top, working the butter and egg yolks into the flour until the dough formed. The filling consisted of gala apples cut into 1/4 inch cubes and cooked in a buttery caramel sauce. Because the apples weren't peeled, they turned a delicate rosy pink as they cooked. When the apples were cooked they were spooned into the prepared tart shell. I liked the idea of making the small cubes that cooked quickly but she had the students from Johnson and Wales doing all her chopping and prep. I'd be doing it myself.

"Never warp pastry dough in plastic wrap to chill it, because it sweats" and then you have to add flour to work with the dough. I have always wrapped pastry dough in waxed paper and now I know why!

Here is a link to her web site.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Muffin Magic

although it's not spring here it is time for spring celebrations. Brunch is my favorite was to entertain because much of the food preparation is done ahead. Below is a link to Sally's Place where I just had an article and several recipes published.

Here's the link.
My Bacon Cheddar Muffins are perfect for spring brunches.

This week I'm traveling to Denver for the IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) and I know I'll have many great experiences to write about next week. I was recently invited to join Les Dames d'Escoffier, an international organization of women culinary professionals. A reception Friday evening will be my first event.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Springtime Favorites for Two

The following recipe is one of my favorites because it captures the essence of springtime. I discovered halibut on a trip to Seattle several years ago and now I wait for it in the spring. The halibut season starts in March, so watch for specials at the supermarket. Because you can purchase it by the pound, a piece large enough for two isn't too expensive.You can use aluminum foil if you don't have parchment.

Halibut and Asparagus in Parchment

In the spring when fresh asparagus first begins to appear in the supermarket, it is also the beginning of the season for fresh halibut. Fresh asparagus is one of the easiest vegetables to prepare--just snap off the bottoms of the stalks and rinse well. Buy a thick piece of halibut so it isn’t overcooked when it’s baked.

Makes 2 servings

8 stalks asparagus
1 (8 ounce) halibut filet, about 1 inch thick
1 teaspoon minced shallot
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon white wine or water
2 lemon wedges

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F, Snap off the bottoms of the asparagus stalks and place them in a microwave safe dish. Add 2 tablespoons water and microwave on high 1 ½ to 2 minutes. By precooking the asparagus it will be cooked tender crisp when the fish is cooked.

Place a 15-inch square of parchment paper on a baking sheet and fold in half. Place the halibut along the fold and cover with the asparagus. Sprinkle with the shallot, lemon rind, and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Dot with the butter and add the wine. Seal the parchment by folding the edges together several times. It’s important that you get the packet sealed so that the fish can cook in the steam inside.

Bake 18 minutes or until the paper is puffed and browned. Remove the packet from the oven and open carefully, allowing the steam to escape. Check the center of the halibut to be sure it’s cooked through. If it isn’t place the packet back in the oven for 2 to 3 minutes longer. Divide in half and garnish with lemon wedges.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Food Adventures in Chicago

We spent the weekend in Chicago with my daughter and seemed to do nothing but eat. We were staying in the 2500 block of North Clark and were amazed at the number of restaurants in the same block. We started with Thursday dinner at Tarascas (Mexican) and a pitcher of Margaritas. For lunch downtown we ate at The Mambo Grill- they're famous for their mojitos and Caribbean style food. I had Cuban Black Bean Soup and Chipotle Pork Tenderloin with a Pineapple Salsa. For dinner we had carryout from a local Italian restaurant.

My favorite of the entire weekend was Molly's Cupcakes. You can see the variety and colorful appearance from the photo. My Chocolate Cupcake was delicate and moist with a deep rich chocolate flavor, topped off with Buttercream Frosting. Other popular choices were Turtle Cupcakes and Peanut Butter Cupcakes (with a peanut butter filling.

Saturday was an adventure. We visited several wholesalers including JP Graziano (901 W Randolph)for bulk Italian spices, fontinella cheese and sopprasotta. He directed us to BARI (1120 W Grand)where we purchased the "best Italian sausage" in the city and an Italian sub for lunch. We also discovered Terry's Toffee (1117 W Grand) across the street. Their homemade toffee and has been featured on Oprah and served to VIP's at the Academy Awards.

Dinner at Brasserie Jo in the near north was good typical French provincial food. I actually had Floating Island for dessert.

Earlier that afternoon we explored the 2500 block of north Clark further and were fascinated by the many pastries and cakes on display at the Austrian Bakery. For Sunday lunch during our drive home, we purchased empanadas from Lito's Empanadas. We tried Beef with Potato (and olives and raisins, seasoned with cumin), Beef with Rice and Chicken Barbecue(shredded chicken with BBQ sauce and potato). Yummy.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Spring Brunch for Showcase Minnesota

I appeared on Showcase Minnesota (KARE 11) this morning with ideas for spring brunches. My Mediterranean Strata from Baking Basics and Beyond was a big hit. I've included the recipe below. This recipe is a unique twist to everyday Cheese and Sausage Strata. Here is the link:

Pat Sinclair’s Mediterranean Strata

Brunch is one of my favorite times to entertain friends and family, and this hearty brunch casserole brimming with sunny flavors from the south of France is always a hit. Because it can be refrigerated overnight, it can be in the oven as the guests arrive.


6 English muffins, split and cubed
12 ounces drained, cooked Italian sausage
1 (14-ounce) can extra-small artichokes, drained and quartered
1/2 cup chopped roasted red pepper
1/4 cup Kalamata olives or ripe olives, pitted and sliced
1 1/2 cups shredded Provolone cheese
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
3 cups whole milk
8 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons basil pesto
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

Lightly spray 13 x 9-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
Arrange muffin cubes in bottom of baking dish. Crumble sausage over muffins and top with artichokes, red pepper, olives, Provolone cheese, and feta cheese.
Beat milk, eggs, pesto, and salt until blended in large bowl and pour over other ingredients. Using a spoon, press ingredients down into the liquid. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Heat oven to 350°F with oven rack in middle. Uncover the casserole.
Bake 35 to 50 minutes or until set and a knife inserted near center comes out clean although it will be wet.
Letting the dish sit for 5 to 10 minutes before cutting makes it easier to serve. Cover and refrigerate any remaining.

BAKER’S NOTE: You can let the dish stand at room temperature about 1/2 hour until the milk is absorbed if you don’t want to make it the day before serving.
SECRETS TO SUCCESS: I like the texture of English muffins, but cubed French bread or other chewy bread creates variety.
Unless you make your own pesto with fresh basil from the garden, purchase it already prepared. You can also purchase roasted red peppers in a jar.